If the devil is in the details, Brutal Doom is Satan himself. Brutal Doom brings more gore than anything. Limbs can fly off of enemies, blood stains the walls and floor more than ever. Its more than that, there are new weapons, new difficulties, different enemy AI that allows enemies to fight back with their last breath and brutal fatalities. Its the next evolution of Doom, even if its unofficial it breathes new life into a twenty year old pair of games and its genuinely one of the most satisfying and enjoyable first person shooters.
Three years after Doom’s initial release, its source code was made available to the public. For years players had been designing their own levels with third party unofficial level editors, but now people could make their own versions of Doom’s engine. These new engines can still play the same levels official or otherwise and they added new things such as new commands, enemy AI and weapons.
Now that you know that, I can tell you that Brutal Doom is a modification for alternate Doom engines such as GZDoom, Zdoom, Skulltag and Zandemonium. Think of it as a semmi truck pulling another semmi truck that has Doom’s levels as its trailer. I was never able to get Brutal Doom to work for ZDoom or Skulltag. So you need either the official releases of Doom, Ultimate Doom or Doom 2 along with an additional source engine to even play Brutal Doom.
There’s a laundry list of new features, but I’ll start first with the guns. When you begin a new game you have a choice, classic or modern. Classic has all of the weapons from the official two games. Pistol, chaingun, shotgun, super shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle and the BFG. They all play the same as they did and its for purists who want that classic feel with the new monsters and elements.
Then there’s the modern selection that has a machine gun rather than a pistol. Its rapid fire and recoils. You can dual wield machine guns with one button for your left and the other for your right, depending on settings. Of course it uses double the ammo, but so does the double barreled shotgun. The super shotgun knocks you back so it feels extra powerful. The chaingun is now a mini gun that needs to spin up before it can fire. You can keep the barrel spinning at the risk of alerting other enemies with its sound. The rocket launcher and plasma rifles are both different and need to be reloaded after a few shots.
There is even an iron sight for a zoom in to sniper enemies with it and it makes sense because there are now headshots that do double the damage if not take a head clean off. Another major new improvement to the weapons is the inclusion of a quick thrown grenade. This can be all the fun in the world, lobbing a grenade and watching the blood and body parts fly from around a corner or a hole.
From there you have eight difficulties rather than the original five. Gone is nightmare difficulty, instead there is everything from the easy power fantasy to realism difficulty. Brutal Doom feels harder in general. Enemies now fire projectile bullets rather than hit scan bullets, so you can see them whiz by your head or dodge them if you’re quick enough. This change alone eats through your health and armor.
The blood, guts, gore and gibs are now everywhere. Blood spatters on your screen. Enemies bleed from their lost limbs. Body parts bounce and tumble around leaving stains. Its more than the gore, because you can use an arachnatrons head as a soccer ball and kick it around before you ultimately chose when it dies. Sergeants and imps can use their dying breath to attack you one last time. As they use their last breath, you can always stomp them to save yourself a bullet or taunt them with a middle finger before you boot their face.
Everything can be changed and modified in your settings in case the chaos and carnage gets to be too much for your PC to handle. Its beautiful to see a room painted red with chunks dripping off the ceiling. You can even mutilate the dead if that’s the way you want to roll.
Imps will pounce at you and slash your screen. Big barons can charge their attacks to unleash a wave of green fire instead of throwing one ball at a time. Mancubus and imps can both light fires with their fireballs. The former even has a new attack that sprays short range flames. You can even murder Mancubus in a specific way to equip his cannon as your own personal flame thrower. Its a new weapon that diversifies the fun. You can light enemies on fire and watch them burn as they run around. Its a glorious sight to behold. There’s another new weapon you can take from a dead enemy and that’s the revenant’s shoulder rockets. This weapon is a bit tricky to use because you’ll need to find a target to lock onto before you fire.
There are new death animations, such as seeing a pinkie demon eating a soldier or imp. You can even perform fatalities such as ripping a creature’s head off or curb stomping an another. These fatalities never get old, because there’s a prerequisite to them. You need to melee an enemy with your fists and have a special berserk pack that’s dropped at random by an enemy. This instills a sense of reward rather than a bore being forced to watch a fatality after fatality. For each one that you perform you do get some health back. For every enemy you can brutalize, they can do the same. They all have a special animation waiting for you when you die. The berserk packs also let you take lost souls and throw them at enemies. Its all glorious fun.
While you’re out and about you can rescue your fellow marines that come equipped with all sorts of weapons. These marines can be dangerous depending on what they’re holding. If they have a rocket launcher or BFG, just let them do their thing and stay back. These marines replace invisibility shadow orbs. You can even command them. have them follow you or wait. Its always good to have a subordinate around.
The particle effects look so much better. The fireballs look like fire and light the area depending on your settings. The BFG’s projectile is big green and glowing rather than a simple sprite. It does more damage and splash damage. A lot of normal things have changed. The lost souls are faster, so they always stay in your face, but get balanced out by doing less damage.
As for the sounds, a lot of them are taken from Doom 3. With such a visual game, the sound is perhaps the weakest department, but its a fair trade for something so good. There’s an additional modification from the developer that includes new heavy metal recreations of Doom’s soundtrack, but its not part of the base download.
All these details really add a lot of satisfying fun to a game that is still going strong today. These details should be found in more modern games and the whole sprite aesthetic just feels different than completely 3D games where its just so realistic. Doom has its own art style and it still feels great to this day. The new particles and lighting do a lot to enhance that great art style.